This Sunday past we entered the season of Advent. I hope in the next 4 weeks to provide us with reflections on the theme of waiting and working.
We live between two comings of Christ.
The incarnation and the parousia1 of Jesus Christ are the historical book-ends within which God’s eternal and indefatigable purposes for redemption and new creation are accomplished in time.
Jesus’ first coming as an atoning servant-saviour, and his second as all-conquering king of God’s kingdom, are the magnetic poles by which we, God’s redeemed people, set our course and navigate amidst the tumultuous and treacherous seas of our time.
At Advent, we have the opportunity to consider afresh the return of Christ not simply as future hope, but a vital fact that bears down on our present faith and work.
For the Second Coming is the central promise that will consummate God’s great redemption. Without it, His kingdom will not fully come on earth as it is in heaven. “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Corinthians 15:25).
The bridegroom must return for his bride; the king come home to claim his rightful inheritance.
Jesus’ teaching and various parables bear that out2. He is coming back, so ‘keep watch.’3 That is, be ready and expectant.
But what is the point of watching if His return is inevitable?
We watch and wait in hope, so we do not despair. In the midst of all the uncertainty, challenge, suffering and fear in today’s broken world, God’s tomorrow is not in doubt.
And we long for that day to come. Maranatha is one of the earliest recorded prayers of the first church.4
There is an intimate link between watching and waiting. Watching is the posture of expectant waiting. And biblically, waiting time is not the same as wasting time. It is active, not passive, as we look to sync our daily lives with God’s timetable and plan for our world and his people.
Secondly, while we watch and wait hopefully, we work faithfully. We focus our minds on action and steward our calling as missionary disciples toward a lost world (1 Peter 1:13; Matthew 28:19-20).
The Welsh preacher G. Campbell Morgan wrote:
“Waiting for God is not laziness. Waiting for God is not going to sleep. Waiting for God is not the abandonment of effort. Waiting for God means, first, activity under command; second, readiness for any new command that may come; third, the ability to do nothing until the command is given.”5
This ultimately is what the season of Advent reminds us – God was faithful to the patriarchs and the prophets to fulfil his word to send Messiah at just the right time (Galatians 4:4). He will come still a second time, with signs and wonders preceding, to judge the living and the dead and to establish his kingdom rule forever, completing our salvation (Hebrews 9:27, 28).
The return of Christ calls us then both to a hopeful waiting and a faithful working. Even so, come Lord Jesus.
1 ‘Parousia’ in Greek literally means ‘presence’. It is used often in the New Testament, among other words, to denote the second coming of Christ – see 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1,8; James 5:7,8; 2 Peter 1:16; 3:4,12; 1 John 2:28.
2 Matthew 24; Mark 13 and Luke 21:5-36. See also various parables including Luke 19:11-27; Matthew 24:46-51; 25:1-13; 14-30 and Mark 13:28-37.
3 Matthew 24:42; Mark 13:37; Luke 21:36
4 Aramaic phrase, translated ‘Our Lord, come’. See 1 Corinthians 16:22b; Revelation 22:20 and the first-century early church text – the Didache 10:6. (www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-hoole.html).
5 Article ‘Waiting for God’ by G. Campbell Morgan, accessed at http://articles.ochristian.com/article14291.shtml